What took you so long, Twitter?

Twitter logoFor years now we’ve rolled our eyes around mid morning when Donald Trump woke up and found his phone and Twitter app. “Oh god, what now?” we would groan as we read the latest instalment of populist bile.

This week, entirely predictably, it all got dangerous and people lost their lives. Families are mourning loved ones whose deaths were entirely preventable. And the events which led up to them were highly predictable.

Twitter, who have for years hosted his most outrageous statements without taking action finally lost patience with Trump, permanently banning him from their platform, citing his tweets about the inauguration.and his praising of the people who stormed the Capitol as “American Patriots”. They felt that he simply could not be trusted to keep his word about orderly transitions of power. His video late on Thursday night was clearly not sincere. You could see that he didn’t mean a word he was saying. I said when I saw it that it was like a hostage video. He really did not want to be saying those things.

The whole justification for Twitter’s decision is set out here in stark terms. They based their ruling on two tweets that he posted yesterday, praising his supporters and announcing that he would not be going to Joe Biden’s inauguration on 20th January.

We assessed the two Tweets referenced above under our Glorification of Violence policy, which aims to prevent the glorification of violence that could inspire others to replicate violent acts and determined that they were highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

This determination is based on a number of factors, including:

  • President Trump’s statement that he will not be attending the Inauguration is being received by a number of his supporters as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate and is seen as him disavowing his previous claim made via two Tweets (1, 2) by his Deputy Chief of Staff, Dan Scavino, that there would be an “orderly transition” on January 20th.
  • The second Tweet may also serve as encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts that the Inauguration would be a “safe” target, as he will not be attending.
  • The use of the words “American Patriots” to describe some of his supporters is also being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the US Capitol.
  • The mention of his supporters having a “GIANT VOICE long into the future” and that “They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” is being interpreted as further indication that President Trump does not plan to facilitate an “orderly transition” and instead that he plans to continue to support, empower, and shield those who believe he won the election.
  • Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021.

I think Twitter have made absolutely the right decision. It’s not about disagreement with someone’s views. It’s about a platform being used to incite illegal acts. If Ed Davey had said the same as Trump, I’d have wanted him thrown off too. Not, of course, that such calculated incitement of criminality would ever enter Ed’s head.

But even then, nobody has the right to be published anywhere. I can’t just demand a column in the Telegraph or the Spectator because I feel like it. The editors of every publication, including this one, have the right to decide what is appropriate for them. They are not copy and pasters, obliged to print everything that is submitted.

If I had been Twitter, though, I’d have been a bit more assertive with him over the years. He has used that platform to shower gratuitous insults on all manner of people he doesn’t like and to egg on bigotry. We saw the consequences of that on Wednesday.

Twitter have put health warnings on many of his tweets since his defeat in November. His objections to the election result have been laughed out of every court into which they have been submitted. He has exhausted due process. All he had left was building up a mob of loyal followers on social media. Twitter will need to reflect on whether they left him unchallenged for too long and what this means in the future.

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

Read more by or more about , , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.
Advert

9 Comments

  • Like it or not, Trump is a democratically elected President. Twitter are a global tech giant who are not accountable to anyone other than the people they want to be accountable to. We should all be disturbed at this censorship by billionaires which is counterproductive and wrong.

    There are plenty of commentators on the left who fan the flames of social tension so are they going to be censored by Twitter too?

  • But even then, nobody has the right to be published anywhere. I can’t just demand a column in the Telegraph or the Spectator because I feel like it. The editors of every publication, including this one, have the right to decide what is appropriate for them. They are not copy and pasters, obliged to print everything that is submitted.

    But isn’t the point that this is exactly what Twitter have claimed in the past — that they are simply copy and pasters, simply passing on content provided by their users, and therefore they are not responsible for what appears in their platforms as it is olely the responsibility of their users?

    If they are going to start exercising editorial control over what appears on their site, doesn’t that mean that they are to be held legally responsible for it just as, say, the Telegraph or the Spectator would be were they to publish, say, a libel?

  • Little Jackie Paper 9th Jan '21 - 7:23pm

    This is all symptom not cause.

    We (the world) were and still are very naive about social media. These things aren’t there to make the world better. Trump and all the others like him on social media were entirely foreseeable a decade ago. We have no excuses.

    All twitter has done here is set up a slippery slope on censorship. It has addressed nothing.

    We can start by asking whether social media companies are publishers.

  • Stephen Donnelly 9th Jan '21 - 11:10pm

    Lionel Barber posted today that this is the point where social media sites accept that they are publishers and take responsibility for what they print. That sits a bit easier with me that banning free speech. Which is never to be desired.

  • No, this does not make social media sites “publishers”, as they don’t make editorial decisions about what content to allow or not. The fact that they are not publishers is what shields them from further liability under the relevant US law, namely Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This says that any user-generated content site is not a publisher if it passively distributes content, even if it performs some moderation of content (which may be retroactive or proactive). If it were otherwise, then they could be sued over any content uploaded by any user.

    The 1995 case of Stratton Oakmont, Inc. v. Prodigy Services Co. shows why it’s a bad idea to treat user-generated content systems as publishers
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratton_Oakmont,_Inc._v._Prodigy_Services_Co.
    Stratton Oakmont (as in Wolf of Wall Street) successfully sued the online service provider Prodigy over defamatory messages in Prodigy’s bulletin board service, because Prodigy’s use of retroactive moderation meant, under the law at the time, that it was a “publisher” of all the content there.

  • Alex Macfie 11th Jan '21 - 6:03pm

    Marco: Free speech means that GOVERNMENT can’t arrest you for what you say. It does not imply an obligation on the part of anyone else either to listen to what you say, or to communicate it. In other words, freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of your speech. Being banned from private communications networks is one such potential consequence, and it has nothing to do with censorship.

  • @Alex Macfie

    The problem is that Twitter have a near monopoly on content, and along with You Tube, Google etc collaborate to enforce a particular worldview and engage in anti-competitive behaviour to prevent rival platforms emerging.

    This monopoly power allows them to decide what is and isn’t said in the public realm. They are taking decisions about the public interest that they aren’t equipped to take. They are one sided and happily host the Chinese Communist Party and their propaganda amongst others

    So I think we need to rethink our freedom from/to approach to free speech in the era of big tech.

    I also feel that the “consequences of your speech” approach is overrated and authoritarian. Those protestors and rioters were acting out of their own free will. Implying they did what they did because Trump put them up to it denies their agency.

  • Nonconformistradical 13th Jan '21 - 10:47am

    @Marco
    “The problem is that Twitter have a near monopoly on content, and along with You Tube, Google etc collaborate to enforce a particular worldview and engage in anti-competitive behaviour to prevent rival platforms emerging.”

    Seems standard business practice in these organisations – through buying up start-ups which might muscle in on their pitch.

    “So I think we need to rethink our freedom from/to approach to free speech in the era of big tech.”

    Perhaps through trying to balance the right to free speech against J S Mill’s principle of not doing harm..?

  • @NCFR

    JS Mill did not have a principle of “not doing harm”

    He said that the *only* grounds for intervention by the state is to prevent harm to others.

    He did not say that all state intervention to prevent harm is automatically justified.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • Joe Bourke
    Peter Martin, the purpose of bank's reserve accounts at the BofE are to facilitate inter-bank clearing and settlement of sterling payments by ensuring there ...
  • Katerina Porter
    This is another thing that is important...
  • GWYN Williams
    The EU does allow a quota of 114,185 tonnes of tariff free sheepmeat from New Zealand every year. It is only exports over that level which attract an ad valorem...
  • Katerina porter
    One could call this murder !!!!!...
  • Jeff
    John Marriott 22nd Oct '21 - 5:12pm: Any new deal negotiated now will have to go a long way to equal the ‘deal’ we used to have with the EU. ...